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Featured National Recreation Trails

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Every kind of trail activity is represented in the listing of designated NRTs. Besides hiking and bicycling, the system includes water trails, motorized routes, snow tracks, greenways, and equestrian paths. The NRT program showcases the diversity of trails across America, from our cities and suburbs to the deserts, waterways, and high mountains.


Great Calusa Blueway, Florida


Florida Map


The Great Calusa Blueway paddling trail meanders 190 miles along the back bays and wildlife-laden shores of Lee County on Florida’s Gulf coast near Sanibel and Fort Myers. The route provides non-motorized access to Federal, State, and Local preserves and historic sites in one of the fastest growing areas of the country.

photo of kayakers in bay

Along the Great Calusa Blueway paddling trail



Traversing the mangrove islands and tidal creeks of Estero Bay, Florida's first "Aquatic Preserve," visitors will see playful dolphins and gliding manatees as well as more than 300 species of birds. The blueway extends from Estero Bay toward the north into Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and the Caloosahatchee River, providing access to the numerous creeks and tributaries, including Hickey's Creek, a State-designated canoe trail.

Easy-to-identify markers guide canoeists and kayakers away from powerboat traffic and through calm areas that often are only a foot or two deep. Bird sightings along the blueway include leggy herons, blush-colored roseate spoonbills, aerodynamic kingfishers and plummeting pelicans. More than 300 species of birds live in or migrate through Lee County. Paddlers encounter dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and river otters. Snook, redfish, tarpon and other gamefish abound.

The blueway is named for the Calusa Indians, who dominated South Florida for centuries before the arrival of the Spaniards in the early 16th century. The trail is perfect for every paddling adventure from short, novice-level trips to day-long or overnight trips. Anglers, bird watchers, nature photographers, day-trippers, families, archeology lovers and geocachers enjoy the blueway.

photo of kayakers in bay

Estero Bay


Along with the posted signs, paddlers can use free maps and/or GPS coordinates, both of which are online at You can request a free map from the website or pick one up at area outfitters, parks, government facilities, marinas, chambers of commerce and welcome centers.

The website includes put-in sites, where to rent boats and how to find guided tours. Area outfitters offer variety, from guided moonlight trips and ghost tours to eco-trips and fishing adventures. They’re along the trail from its northern point in Pine Island Sound to its southern end on Estero Bay, as well as inland on the Caloosahatchee River and its tributaries.

The Calusa Blueway is among the first water trails in the country to have a state-of-the-art smart-phone application users can download for free to more easily navigate Southwest Florida waters. It provides real-time GPS coordinates and navigation, an interactive trail map with places of interest identified, boating tips and regulations, a brief history of Mound Key inhabitants and a key to the island’s flora, fauna and wildlife.

photo of swamp with overhanging trees

Paddling a creek Along the Great Calusa Blueway paddling trail

The historic sites include the Mound House, which was built in 1906 on a mound created by prehistoric inhabitants, Mound Key Archaeological State Park, and Koreshan State Historic Site, a Utopian pioneer settlement founded in 1984 by Dr. Cyrus Teed.

The Blueway has received designation from the State and is part of the Florida Greenways and Trails system. The Blueway is also included in the overall Lee County Trail Master Plan. The County's development of the Blueway was made possible and continues to be supported by local businesses, the Tourism Development Council, the West Coast Inland Navigation District, Lee County Parks & Recreation and local municipalities.

Every fall, the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival celebrates the trail and its cultural attractions. The 2012 dates are Nov. 1-4 at the Sanibel Causeway.


For more information:

Find more information and a link to download the app at

For the trail website, visit Call Lee County Parks & Recreation at (239) 533-7275 or the Visitor & Convention Bureau at (800) 237-6444. Go for one hour or one week. It’s all magical on this trail through paradise.

trail noteWe frequently add NRT information, photos and maps to these pages. Send suggestions and information requests to American Trails. Research additional NRTs in the NRT database. Trail managers can update online trail information in the NRT database. You may also e-mail information on minor changes or to update Featured NRT pages.



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The on-line database has details on the currently designated National Recreation Trails. The NRT Program online is hosted by American Trails:


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